By Owen Amos, winner of the Fans' Day competition to be Arsenal.com's reporter for the match
There may be a new heir, but the King of Highbury is not ready to be dethroned. On the day Arsenal unleashed José Reyes, as a second-half substitute, Thierry Henry again proved he was England's most exhilarating forward.
The Frenchman's superb 25-yard drive, shortly after Reyes' introduction, was ultimately the match-winner and ensured the Spaniard's headline would have to wait. Amid all this was an own goal and a red card in a game that refused to accept a quiet moment.
Manchester City's 4-5-1 formation reflected a trepidation that was easy to understand. The visitors had not won in the Premiership since November; Arsenal haven't lost in it since May. The Gunners' opening was typical: full of movement, sharp passing and crosses begging for tap-ins. In the opening 10 minutes, invitations to score from Robert Pires and Ashley Cole went unanswered. When Lauren's pull-back did find Henry, the Frenchman's shot came back off a post.
Arsenal once had a speedy French forward before Henry. Nicolas Anelka, now in Sky Blue, looked dangerous on the break and after 25 minutes was denied a clear chance only by Kolo Toure's smart defending.
The Gunners soon responded to City's challenge. Gilberto dispossessed Anelka and gave the ball to Bergkamp, who, in what must be a familiar action, pushed the ball to Henry in the left channel. Freddie Ljungberg was ready to convert Henry's whipped cross, but Michael Tarnat saved him the bother by sliding the ball into his own net. The German presumably felt Arsenal needed help converting their chances.
The sky got darker, the rain got heavier, and the pitch became as sticky as it has been all season. Still, Arsenal's artists can handle a dodgy canvas, and after 52 minutes Henry set up Bergkamp, who could only shoot at David James.
Soon afterwards, City created their best chance. Sylvain Distin headed a Tarnat free-kick towards goal, but Jens Lehmann saved well on the line.
With Ljungberg, Pires, and Henry, it is rare for Arsène Wenger to prescribe an injection of pace. But that is what Arsenal needed, and, on 70 minutes, that is what they got. Reyes came on for Bergkamp, and Arsenal buzzed once more. Edu, who had earlier replaced Ljungberg, came close from 25 yards, but it was Reyes who had the best chance. Put through by Henry, he showed explosive speed but James, who had rushed from goal, blocked the shot.
Henry decided to show him how it was done. Receiving the ball from Pires on the edge of the penalty area, he took one touch before powerfully driving the ball towards goal. The ball evaded James' grasp and arrowed into the top right corner. Henry's adoring public were jubilant; his team-mates seemed pretty pleased too. With seven minutes left, the contest should have been over - but things are never simple with The Gunners.
Arsenal carelessly gave the ball away in their own half before it was fed to Anelka, who slid the ball under Lehmann to score. In the melee that followed referee Alan Wiley saw sufficient belligerence to send off Anelka.
Without their talismanic Frenchman, City failed to threaten in the closing minutes, and Arsenal completed a deserved win. Reyes will provide Arsenal's future opponents with a new conundrum ? as if they needed one - and with Henry as irresistible as ever, the unbeaten streak could go on and on. Just whisper that quietly in front of Arsène Wenger.
|Freddie watches as Michael Tarnat turns the ball into his own net||Arsenal's latest signing Jose Reyes charges onto the field|
|Thierry Henry shapes up to shoot...||... and David James has no chance.|
|Edu tries to celebrate with Henry...||... and the Frenchman roars in triumph.|
|Skipper Ray Parlour with Shaun Wright-Phillips|
BUY THIS PICTURE
|Jose Reyes watches the game from the bench|
BUY THIS PICTURE
© Arsenal Broadband Limited 2004